Each NBA season is a collection of dramas. Whether a playoff hopeful, a tanking team or a title favourite, every NBA organisation has clear storylines even before first tip-off and more will develop within days of the campaign starting.
There are some that will be at the forefront. Every step LeBron James takes gets attention aplenty, for instance. Here are a few other storylines to keep a close eye on through the season…
The Minnesota Timberwolves offseason has been more Coronation Street than NBA. Jimmy Butler is yet to be traded, despite making it clear that he wants out, and the Western Conference’s eight seed last season are in turmoil.
Tom Thibodeau is fighting a losing battle with Butler, or it seems that way at least. The return Minnesota get for Butler will determine what their ceiling is this season. The current situation is clearly untenable, and it will be fascinating to see how it gets resolved.
Of course, assuming Butler is traded, it will be a season-changer for whoever he joins too.
Uncertainty in Phoenix
The Suns fired their general manager just eight days before the season started. Having allowed Ryan McDonough to handle free agency and the draft, the timing was puzzling.
DeAndre Ayton was selected with the number one overall pick and has impressed in preseason. Trevor Ariza was a smart pick up from Houston and Devin Booker should return quickly. McDonough failed to acquire a point guard, however, which leaves a hole in the Phoenix team.
The Suns are probably not a playoff team, but there’s reason for optimism and the Booker-Ayton partnership will be fun to watch. This is an important season as the franchise looks to compete again.
Fultz the third star?
Brett Brown has shown faith in Markelle Fultz through all his troubles since being drafted in 2017. Brown continued in the same manner by naming Fultz his starting shooting guard for the new season.
His remodelled jumper and healthy shoulder mean we should see Fultz play somewhere near the level that made the Sixers trade up to get him.
How well he plays will have a massive impact on Philadelphia’s season. The 76ers missed out on a big free agent this offseason, but that disappointment will be forgotten if Fultz can become a third star alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Turning point for Dallas
In what is likely Dirk Nowitzki’s final season, the Dallas Mavericks look like they could finally turn a corner. A playoff spot is not out of the question.
The trade to acquire Luka Doncic – who has dazzled in preseason – is the obvious highlight, but Dallas also added centre DeAndre Jordan. A lot depends on Doncic and his backcourt mate Dennis Smith Jr, however.
Assuming the pair stay healthy, this will be an exciting season for the Mavericks. Doncic and Smith are a must-watch duo – we could see them surprise a few.
Casey in Motor City
Dwane Casey broke records as he led the Toronto Raptors to the Eastern Conference semi-finals and number one seed. He was sacked at season’s end. The Detroit Pistons wasted no time in hiring him.
Having traded for Blake Griffin’s long contract last season, it’s very much win now in Detroit. A playoff spot is a must, and that is a very realistic goal if Griffin and Reggie Jackson remain healthy.
Outside of Philly, Boston and Toronto, the East is wide open. Casey worked wonders with the Raptors last season, it’s not impossible he snatches the fourth seed with Detroit.